By Harvey Deutschendorf
Don Daseke was already a seasoned entrepreneur with several businesses that he had founded when he decided to get into the trucking business. He admitted that he barely knew the difference between a pickup and 18 wheeler when he started, but he was eager to learn and relied on the people around him. His first acquisition was Smokey Point Distributing in 2008. By 2014 the company had merged six trucking subsidiaries, focusing on specialized in flatbed and specialized cargo. In that year Daseke was named Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwestern Region by Ernst& Young. The company continued to acquire new companies and expand. At present Daseke Inc. is the leading consolidator and largest owner of specialized transportation solutions in North America. In February of 2017 the company went public on NASDAQ.
While the company’s phenomenal growth and success has received a great deal of attention, it is their culture and philosophy that Don Daseke attributes to their success. With 3800 tractors, over 8200 flatbed and specialized trailers more than a million square feet of industrial warehousing, Daseke still refers to new acquisitions as becoming part of the Daseke “family”
I a recent conversation with Don Daseke we talked about his management style and how Daseke Inc. operates that sets them apart.
Merging with Not For Sale Companies that are a cultural fit
Daseke Inc. looks for companies that are a cultural fit that are not for sale. This is not the typical Wall Street approach in which companies that are for sale are purchased. The problem with this approach is that these companies have management or financial problems claims Daseke. What he looks for are companies that are well managed and share similar philosophies. He searches for companies that are people oriented and fit within the Daseke family culture. Three hour dinners with CEO’s and owners of other companies are a common practice. They not only talk about business matters, but family, hobbies, passions and community.
Contributing to the community
Daseke is a strong believer in contributing to community and he looks for companies that share those values. In this he leads by example. In 2016 Don and his wife Barbara gifted 20 million dollars to DePauw University. It was in appreciation of what Don learned during his time at DePauw, where he earned an economics degree and became a Rector Scholar.
Give your people a share of the company
The reason that the company was eager to go public was to give their people the option of owning a share in the company. Drivers have the opportunity for stock options. The organization wants drivers to feel part of the organization, have opportunities for growth and want to spend their entire careers there. It is a practice that is shared with another highly successful Texas based organization, Southwest Airlines.
Keeping staff at all levels
One of the problems with companies that are for sale is there is often turnover of executive staff. Often 50% of CEO’s and other key people leave within a year that companies are bought out. This often results in staff at all levels leaving, causing disruption, turmoil and a lack of faith and trust within the organization. One of the things that Daseke Inc. is most proud of is that no employees are terminated as a result of mergers. CEO’S and other senior staff seldom leave the organization. This loyalty spreads throughout the organization and results in stable, loyal workforce, secure in knowing that they will always have a place in the organization.
Showing respect and appreciation to staff
Truck drivers are not accorded a very high status as an occupation in North America. To counter that perception drivers at Daseke Inc. are given business cards. Not the type where you write in your name, but professional cards that signify that they are professional drivers. Moving huge industrial freight of all shapes and sizes involves a great deal of ability, specialized training and team work. Safety is always at the core of everything they do. Daseke looks for people who are intelligent and great team players. It is a tough job and everyone needs to pull together and contribute to be successful.
People skills are in, ego is out
The one common thread that ties all Daseke Inc. companies together is their people focus. At all levels people skills are highly desired and sought after when hiring. If you want to work for this organization, park your ego, as it is not welcome. People skills are important not only for developing strong teamwork within the organization, but developing deep, long lasting relationships with customers. While Daseke Inc. is constantly expanding and looking for new clients it has developed a loyal customer base that it can count on. That base has been established through getting to know them on a personal level. Customers feel that they will not only receive excellent service, but they are cared about as people.
Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com. His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy.